Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made it two weeks in a row, as UFC on FUEL TV 5 took center stage at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England.
In the main event, the 265-pounders grabbed the spotlight, as Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic went toe-to-toe in a battle of two heavyweights looking to move to the next level in their respective mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Struve continued to show improvement and to silence his critics, as he knocked out yet another fighter who was supposed to give him trouble, due to an alleged power disparity.
The co-main event featured hometown hero Dan Hardy seeking to string together two wins in a row, for the first time since 2009, when he squared off against Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alumnus Amir Sadollah.
Hardy hit the bull's eye with his performance, putting on a striking clinic and bloodying up his opponent, much to the delight of the raucous Nottingham crowd.
With 11 fights on the card, there were no shortage of winners and losers, both in and out of the cage.
As usual, MMAmania.com rolls up its sleeves and is ready to go to work, as we take a closer look at the UFC on FUEL TV 5 card, top to bottom, attempting to determine who earned the honors of the "biggest winner" and "lowliest loser."
I gotta be honest. I'm torn here.
There were a lot of deserving candidates. We saw some spectacular newcomers making their debuts. We had exciting finishes. Even the card itself deserves to be praised, for its depth, as well as the fact that it's a nice change to have a fight card on a Saturday afternoon.
All in all, UFC on FUEL TV 5 was a gigantic hit.
It comes down to the main and co-main event winners, for me. And, I feel like I couldn't really go wrong, either way here. Struve won another big fight. He picked off another undefeated up-and-comer who everyone expected to test his chin, if not put him to sleep.
He shut everyone up, and he got himself a lot closer to being "in the mix." It depends on certain stars aligning, but he very well may be one impressive win away from a title shot.
Ordinarily, that's a resume that would make a fighter the biggest winner of the event. Seriously. On any other given Saturday, we'd be saying that was the guy who would be buying everyone else drinks.
However, I'm gonna have to go with Dan Hardy, and here's why:
Just a year ago, "The Outlaw" was very close to having his nickname changed to "Out of Work." He lost four fights in a row, and, quite frankly, he just wasn't improving.
He was the epitome of the guy who prattles on and on (in his post-fight interviews) about how he: "wanted to fight, but the other guy just wanted wrestle."
He couldn't stop a takedown. He was almost always technically outmatched. He had one-punch knockout power, and, because of that, you could never count him out of a fight. But, unless he connected with one of his patented haymakers, he probably was going to either get submitted or grinded out in a decision that didn't go his way.
After last night's win over Amir Sadollah, I have to say Hardy has turned me into a believer. He was calm and focused. He took some big shots early on, but he stayed in the game, picked his spots, and by the end of the fight, he had turned Sadollah's face into a bloody mess.
This is a big deal. You might underestimate Sadollah's toughness and technical ability. You shouldn't. He's as game an opponent as they come, and Hardy had an answer for everything he threw at him.
He even took him down, several times, and he wisely avoided a few submission attempts that probably would have ended his night, months ago.
I honestly believe that we're seeing a new and improved Dan Hardy. You can see it in the way he walks into the cage. You can hear it in his voice, during his interviews.
This is a more likable Dan Hardy. This is a guy I can cheer for. And I will.
When I first noticed that former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) contestant DaMarques Johnson was on the UFC on FUEL TV 5 fight card, I have to admit -- I was surprised.
Not because of who he was fighting. Not because he was fighting at a catchweight bout. No, it wasn't either of those things (though, we'll get to both, momentarily).
The reason I was surprised is that I didn't realize he was even still on the UFC's roster.
Silly me. I'm a mixed martial arts (MMA) journalist. Things like that shouldn't slip my radar. It was sloppy. I'll do better. I promise.
But, can you really blame me?
The guy hasn't fought in the UFC in over a year. Prior to that, he had lost three of his last four fights. Truthfully, I've just never been that impressed with him. He talks a lot and delivers a little.
I've never really been a fan of trash talking anyway. Even when guys can back it up. So, it's all the more tiring when a fighter flaps his gums, then fails to deliver.
With all of that out in the open, and having lost his last two fights, you'd think we'd have seen a re-energized Johnson, fighting to preserve his career and his reputation, right?
What we saw was a fighter who missed weight, badly, for the second time in his UFC career. He looked out of shape and unmotivated. Hell, he looked overmatched when he and his opponent, Gunnar Nelson touched gloves at the beginning of the fight!
It just felt like it would only be a matter of time before he was finished by the Icelandic fighter who was making his promotional debut. And, turns out, that's exactly accurate.
Don't get me wrong, Nelson is a freak. He's going to make serious noise in the UFC. I love his addition to the roster, and I see a ton of exciting fights for him at 170 pounds. I don't want to take anything away from him at all.
But, Johnson just looked bad. I don't want to go too far, because DaMarques gets in a cage in front of thousands and fights for a living. I don't. I get that. But, if I'm being brutally honest (and I usually am), it almost felt like they pulled some random guy out of the crowd to fight. It really was that bad -- that noncompetitive.
It's time to let Mr. Johnson test the waters of Regional Midwestern MMA shows in hotel banquet halls and airplane hangars. Let him go back to the drawing board. If he can rattle off an impressive win streak, fighting prospects on small shows, then bring him back and let him "WAR" against the cream of the crop.
But, right now, he's just embarrassing himself.